Perfect Your Deadlift Form: Use the Wedge

Nov 3, 2022 | Strength & Conditioning

Serious woman athlete performing deadlift from the ground with loaded barbell in a gym setting.

Are you actually deadlifting with good form? Many athletes think they are, but aren’t aware of the small (but troublesome!) mistakes they’re making. Using the wedge method ensures proper form to prevent injuries and maximize your gains.

Marc Lavallee has trained Canadian military units in the Search and Rescue Technician (SAR-Tech) program along with members in their active duty and selection phases. He currently coaches for a policing agency. In this blog, he’ll tell you how and why to wedge the bar to master your deadlift form, along with common mistakes to avoid

Mark Lavalee
Marc Lavallee

The First Rep Is Key

I’ve worked with a number of athletes over the years, from novice gym-goers to intermediate lifters. Many of them seem to have one thing in common: the cringe on my face when I see their deadlift form.

A lot of lifters have no idea how to correct their form. Maybe it’s because they have no idea what they actually look like, or because they can’t see the different angles of their body. More than likely, they probably have absolutely no idea they’re doing anything wrong!

I see a lot of people simply pick up the bar off the ground with zero regard for their setup. They stand up nice and tall and set their form on that first descent. What they don’t know is that this is a recipe for potential injury and/or chronic low-back pain. Also, it kind of defeats the purpose of the deadlift since there’s hardly any tension in the bar/hamstrings.

The most important rep of a deadlift is the very first one — getting the bar off the ground. You must be set, braced, and ready to execute this first rep with nearly perfect technique.

The best way to do that is by focusing on setting up your wedge for your first lift.

The Wedge Method

What do I mean when I say “wedge” your deadlift? Imagine the barbell as a heavy block on the ground. You’re essentially using your body to “wedge” yourself between the floor and the heavy load, forcing it up.

Wedging maximizes tension into the bar and then moves that tension vertically, lifting the bar off the ground.

Make More Progress in the Gym

Set Your Hips

The first part of setting up your deadlift is positioning your hips. To wedge the bar, you need to think of your hips as going into the bar. Not down, not forward. Avoid setting your hips too high or too low, which is a common mistake I see many athletes make.

If you set up with your hips too low and your knees bent, you’re not putting enough (if any) tension on your hamstrings, glutes, erectors, and lats.

On the other hand, if your hips are too high, you’re turning your deadlift into a stiff-leg deadlift.

Get Under the Bar

The next step is to wedge yourself under the bar like a trailer wheel wedge, then pull the slack out of the barbell. This helps set your tension and activate your back/leg muscles so they’re ready to pull hard.

You want to avoid rushing your setup and simply “grip n’ ripping” the bar off the floor with zero considerations of positioning.

Initiating the lift with your hips is a common mistake on the initial lift. If your hips initiate the movement, you’re putting quite a bit of tension on your low back. This also shows that your wedge was not set and your tension wasn’t maximized.

Expert Tips to Master Deadlift Form by Wedging

Ideally, the best way to master the wedge is to film yourself and have a coach review your lifting. A coach can help you figure out your specific technique and if any tweaks need to be made.

If you don’t have a coach to review your form, I recommend starting with lighter weights and slower reps to master your technique. When you rush your reps to complete your set, the lack of focus on technique is more likely to lead to injury. Plus you won’t be getting near as many gains.

Athletes reach out to me after they injured themselves or are recovered but scared to do that specific movement again.

Don’t be that person! Master the wedge and you’ll be on your way to bigger gains and enjoyable, pain-free lifting.

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